Why we all know the names Ed and Lorraine Warren

If you have even a passing interest in the occult, the horror genre, or even popular culture, you know the names Ed and Lorraine Warren. Ed was a demonologist and ordained exorcist by the Catholic church. Lorraine was a psychic medium. Together, they worked on countless paranormal investigations and founded the New England Society for Psychic Research. 

Their work inspired some of the most popular horror movies of my lifetime. They investigated the Amityville House, Annabelle, the Perron family, and countless others. 

Throughout their lives, they faced plenty of backlash. They were called frauds, of course they were. And I’m not here to say that the work they did is real. I’m also not here to say it’s not real. What I can say is this. Some questions are unanswered either way you see things. But I’ve seen too much in my own life to discount that there might be at least a grain of truth.

As I said though, that’s not the point. The point is that we cannot stop talking about them. And I’m here to talk about why.

It would be easy to say it’s the popular films based on their work that have put the Warrens firmly in our pop culture. But that doesn’t answer the base question. Why are these films so popular to start with? Well, for the same reason the Warrens themselves are.

To start with, Ed and Lorraine are attainable heroes. They’re not superpowered. They’re not sharpshooters or assassins trained from childhood to kill. While you could argue that Lorraine is a medium, lots of people consider that a skill you can learn. So while we might have a hard time seeing ourselves in Black Widow or Captain America, we can easily see ourselves in Ed and Lorraine. 

And we want to see ourselves there, too. Because the stories they tell are inspiring. The family in Amityville survived a living hell, as did the Perrons. The nurse who owned Annabelle was freed of her. The Warrens went up against the forces of Hell itself, and more often than not, they won.

Finally, The Warrens continue to be popular because they were fighting against fears we all have. 

I’m not saying that we all fear having a demonic presence in our home. But we’re all a little afraid of something coming into our home that might hurt us. We’re afraid of a good deal, often. The house that seems too cheap is often cursed with a bad foundation or a leaking roof. The lovely doll we got at a second-hand store is carrying lice or its stitching is falling apart. 

To a lesser extent, I think we’re all afraid of mental illness. And demonic possession can be seen as a metaphor for mental illness. 

There are those among us who want to do horrible things. They want to poison aspirin, shoot up elementary schools, lure people into dark places and slaughter them. All of this points to a broken, sad mind. And often we don’t get satisfying answers to why these people did what they did.

It’s really hard to see the humanity in the hands of the man holding the gun. And yet often, so often, we hear from friends and family members. They say that these monsters in man’s form were not monsters. Of course, they weren’t. We hear the same thing about most serial killers. They were nice people, good people.

Until they weren’t.

It’s easy to see how someone might suspect a demonic force at play. Maybe, it’s even better that way. Who wants to think a human being could do something like that.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look into Ed and Lorraine Warren. And I want to hear what you think about them? Do you love them, hate them? Let us know in the comments.

Paper Beats World is a labor of love. If you can, please consider buying me a cup of coffee on Ko-fi

The creation of Quiet Apocalypse

Quiet Apocalypse comes out on Friday. And, I’ve just got to say, this launch is nothing like any other launch I’ve ever done. That’s because Quiet Apocalypse is nothing like any book I’ve ever written before. So I thought it might be fun to take a look at the journey I went through writing this book. If you’re a writer, I hope you’ll learn something from the trip. If you’re just a fan, you might like a peek into the spaghetti bowl that is my brain. 

Quiet Apocalypse is probably the most indulgent book I’ve ever written. It’s a patchwork of things I wanted to write about all pulled together. 

It started with a short story about an apocalypse brought on when no one was able to have children anymore. I was raised Mormon, and one of the many wacky things they believe is that there’s a finite amount of souls in Heaven waiting to come to Earth. As a child, I interpreted that to mean that someday, people would just stop having babies. 

While I don’t believe this anymore, it’s always lurked around in the back of my brain. So I wanted to write about an apocalypse that came about because people just stopped being able to bear children. 

That short story didn’t pan out. It was rather dull, just a man sitting on a park bench thinking back over the horrors that had ensued since people stopped having kids. Eventually, I gave it up.

Sometime later, I realized I wanted to write something about witchcraft. Specifically, I wanted to write a story with a witch as the main character. I was about a year into my witchcraft journey at the time, and it was consuming much of my life. I also wanted to write a haunted house story. Something that had a similar vibe to The House Next Door or The House on Haunted Hill. Or Goosebumps, The Ghost Next Door.

So that’s where we got the start of Quiet Apocalypse. Sadie, a school nurse from a long line of witches, is given an ouija board by her aunt, and she accidentally lets a ghost loose in her apartment while she’s trying to cleanse it. 

Hilarity and horror were going to ensue.

But this wasn’t enough to fill a whole novella. It was barely a short story, and not a satisfying one. 

But of course, this is why we say no writing is ever wasted. I was muddling around, trying to think of something deeper to do with Sadie and her faithful dog, Sage. I loved her. I loved her quirky little apartment building, with the elderly landlord and his husband. I loved the found family feel the whole building had. 

I turned to my notebooks and found the fragments of my apocalypse story. It wasn’t workable on its own. But maybe I could still use that idea. The thought of a world going silent. A world without babies would then turn into a world without children. 

Then, we’d have a very quiet planet.

All of this blended to create the novella I’ve now brought into the world. And I think it turned out pretty well. See what you think on Friday.

Quiet Apocalypse is coming out on Friday the 13th! You can pre-order your copy now on Amazon or Smashwords

Why I don’t watch ghost hunting shows

I love a good ghost story. Especially a haunted house story. And they’re even better when they’re real. I love going on ghost tours, or just reading about an encounter that cannot be explained. A good local ghost story will get me up to 11 every time. 

What I don’t love is ghost hunting shows. And let me tell you why.

(As a quick aside, I do like Buzzfeed Unsolved. I love Ryan and Shane’s new company, Watcher. None of what I’m about to say applies to them.)

They’re performative

Yes, I understand that these are shows, meant for entertainment. I would expect any show like that to be performative because they are there to, duh, perform. But this is an issue I have with reality tv in general. It’s hard to believe that anything is real when we know the participants are fully aware that the camera is on them.

Too often I’ll see ‘professional ghost hunters’ lose their minds over some small supernatural occurrence. Things that I feel like they’ve seen hundreds of times. So why are they so amazed today? 

Because it plays better. 

There’s often a fair amount of infighting on these shows as well. The ghost hunters often have the sorts of relationships that make you wonder why in the hell they’re working together to start with. Often this has less to do with their bad partner choices and more to do with producers hyping up drama where none exists.

By the way, you can make good tv without that. Mythbusters was on for over a decade without that kind of drama. And, fun fact, Jamie and Adam did not get along. But they were God damned professionals who didn’t act like children. 

And a bad working relationship might not be all these shows are faking.

They probably fake things

Do I know this for sure? No, of course not. Do I want to get sued? Not at all, I have no money. So am I going to say for sure that all ghost hunting shows besides Buzzfeed Unsolved fake footage? No, that would be an unprofessional and ludicrous thing to say without proof. 

What I will say is that they often portray footage that seems suspect. Things that look very convincing, and make you wonder how they could ever fake it. But then you watch a video from Captain Dissolution, and you see how they very much could fake it. 

I will also say that catching actual evidence of ghosts on camera would be amazingly difficult and change how we see the world forever. So maybe if a ghost hunting show is claiming that they do this regularly, that claim should be taken with a grain of salt.

They’re exploitative

This is something I take issue with in all reality tv. Far too often, we see people in their worst moments on this kind of content. 

Especially in the shows that do ‘house calls’, we see people who are confused and scared. We might see them making fools of themselves. We might even just see them saying things and making decisions that they might not otherwise. 

And the producers of these sorts of shows have no problem shoving cameras in the faces of distraught people. It’s sick, honestly. If I were to watch a real person on a show, rather than an actor, I’d like to see the best of humanity.

Not the worst.

Quiet Apocalypse is available now for preorder on Amazon and Smashwords. Premiers Friday, May 13th.

The end of the world began with a winter storm.
Sadie’s quiet life is interrupted when a tree crushes the roof of her attic apartment. She’s forced to move to a smaller apartment in the building. Then, her aunt guilts her into clearing an ouija board of a particularly irritating spirit.
But it wasn’t just the roof that was broken by the tree. There was something trapped within the building, waiting. Waiting to wake and bring about the end of the world.
Not with screams, but with silence

Horror Subgenres Part Six

In case you missed them, here are links to parts one, two, three, four and five. 

And this is it! We’ve come to the last post about horror subgenres. Did I get them all? Probably not. But that’s alright. We covered a lot. And hey, if I missed a subgenre you love or one that you wanted to know more about, please let me know in the comments. No reason I can’t do a part seven if I find enough new subgenres.

Techno horror

At the introduction of every technological advancement, there is fear. There will always be some that believe every new way to communicate with each other is the thing that will bring about the fall of society. As though it would ever be just one thing.

While we might like to think that Techno horror is a new subgenre, it’s really not. Sure, there are lots of good stories about internet urban legends coming true. Plenty of ghosts in the machines, hunters stalking innocent prey in comment sections and message boards.

But before there was the internet, there was television, radio and telephones. And we don’t have to look far to see that each had its own set of horrors.

I still think a phone with no caller ID is pretty damn scary.

The Ring is a great example, with a vengeful spirit trapped on a videotape. But we can go much farther back, to the classic film Videodrone. We’re always scared of what we don’t understand, and we don’t understand technology. Even as we’ve grown so dependent on it. And so the Techno horror subgenre is alive and well, with later installments including movies like Pulse.

Urban Gothic

I’ve not been shy about loving city life. Even as I write this I’m sitting in front of a window that looks out over my tiny little city. I can see windows that lead to people’s homes and offices.

And yeah, so many people living and working right on top of each other will lead to some horror stories.

This subgenre is full of dark alleys and dangerous shadows. It’s a drug store at two in the morning, empty but open. It’s someone you see on the other side of the road, who’s gone after a truck goes past. It’s a fifth-story window being opened from the outside. It’s a scream from your neighbor’s apartment, followed by silence.

This is a subgenre that goes back to London. Real horrors like dirty living conditions and clashing politics lead to stories like Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde. But we keep right on creating out of this gothic subgenre. Half the Purge movies would fall into this category, as well as the classic American Psycho.

Vampire literature

I don’t know how much I need to say about this one. I think we all know about vampires. The evil, the tortured, the sexy and brooding. Vampire lore has been with us for centuries, even before Stoker gave us the eternal Dracula. And it’s a subgenre that keeps updating along with the times. Capes are replaced with trench coats. What was once a monster lurking in the night becomes an influencer with millions of followers and a deal with Hot Topic.

As a teenager, I was in love with the entire vampire subgenre. As an adult, I’m rather over it. 

Weird Menace

This is another subgenre that is wrapped up in a specific timeframe. In this case, the 1930’s and 40’s. It’s a blend of horror and mystery, with a hero pitted against Satanic villains. This was largely a comic book subgenre, featuring graphic gore and sexual portrayals. Many of these comics lasted only one or two issues before there was enough public outcry to shut them down. One that did last a little while was called Strange Detective Stories. I hate that so many of these were shut down. While I don’t know that I’d call many of these old comics art, they might have evolved into some great works if left the hell alone.

What stories have we lost to the deadly boot of censorship? 

Werewolf fiction

Finally, we come to werewolf fiction. Another well-known subgenre, but a bit more nuanced. Because while werewolves specifically aren’t universal, legends of people turning into monsters under a full moon pretty much are.

I wonder why that is. Why does almost every culture across the world have stories of people turning into animal-like creatures? The styles might change, the animals they resemble differ. But these tales abide.

I wonder why.

There are some great examples of werewolf fiction out there. Underworld was fun, of course, as was I Was A Teenage Werewolf. 

So that’s it. Don’t forget to give this post a like if you enjoyed it. And if I didn’t get to your favorite horror subgenre, let me know in the comments. 

Quiet Apocalypse launches next week, on Friday the 13th! You can preorder it now on Amazon and Smashwords. 

The end of the world began with a winter storm.
Sadie’s quiet life is interrupted when a tree crushes the roof of her attic apartment. She’s forced to move to a smaller apartment in the building. Then, her aunt guilts her into clearing an ouija board of a particularly irritating spirit.
But it wasn’t just the roof that was broken by the tree. There was something trapped within the building, waiting. Waiting to wake and bring about the end of the world.
Not with screams, but with silence.

Paper Beats World is a labor of love. If you loved this post, please consider buying me a cup of coffee on Ko-fi. 

Horror subgenres, Part Five

Just in case you missed them, here are links to parts one, two, three and four.

This horror subgenre post might be my favorite because we’re going to talk about one kind of subgenre that I love. The Gothics.

Southern Gothic

Southern gothic is all about the dark corners of the southern American states. Which gets me every time. Aside from New Orleans, I don’t see much to enjoy below the Mason/Dixon line. If you’re from that part of America and you don’t like that, stop voting for politicians who are trying to take away reproductive rights.

That felt like a snarky point, but it does have something to do with the subgenre. You see, Southern Gothic tends to deal heavily with the complex political spectrum of the south. There is racism and hatred. Burning crosses and battered women. It’s hard for someone like me, who only spent a year there as a child then got the hell out, to grasp the weight of it.

The Southern Gothic subgenre has a lot of discussions of racism. A lot of focus is on the oppressive heat and the strangling kudzu. It’s the nightmares of men defeated in a war, and a people stolen from their homeland and sold as slaves.

Some great examples of Southern Gothic are Lovecraft Country, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and this one episode of Monsterland

Southern Ontario Gothic

There’s a funny story about this subgenre. Author Timothy Findley was being interviewed about his book, The Last of The Crazy People. The interviewer said it had a very Southern Gothic feel. Findley responded, “Sure, it’s Southern Gothic. Southern Ontario Gothic.”

This sort of work is essentially horror with the aesthetic of Canada. This is what I love about gothic genres in general. It is something that can’t always be understood by outsiders, but it is deeply felt by those who have roots in a certain community. Because we are all outsiders to some, and we all have roots somewhere else. Gothic stories are all about those dark corners we know about in our communities.

Because everywhere has dark corners.

Splatter Film

This subgenre has a far different vibe than the others we’ve talked about today. A splatter film glorifies all the gore and blood your dark little heart could want. There are few holds barred in this sort of film. Guts and blood are so prevalent, this feels more like torture porn sometimes.

Other times it can be funny as hell, like in Evil Dead or Dawn of the Dead. 

Splatter films come in all sorts of flavors. A fun one from a few decades ago is splatterpunk from the ’80s. Back when everything was punk.

Suburban Gothic

This is the gothic subgenre I’m most familiar with. As someone who just moved out of the suburbs, which I hate, I know all about this one. 

The suburbs represent conformity. They’re a place many people dream of living, but only because they’ve never done it before. Everyone’s grass is always cut. Their trash is brought to the curb. Everyone’s car is clean. 

Too clean.

My favorite example of this subgenre is The House Next Door, which explores madness in many forms. Another example is Nightmare on Elm Street, where a mob of suburban parents went to extremes to protect their children. Then there’s Poltergeist, which explores the desire to afford to live in this sort of neighborhood, and what lengths someone might go to to achieve that.

Zombies

Ah, zombies. Another genre close to my heart, being from Pittsburgh and all. 

Zombies are pretty popular in pop culture. The fun thing is, that they can also fit into almost any of the other subgenres. You’ve got some zombie stories that are flat-out adventure tales, splatter films, gothic movies of every flavor.

What I love about the zombie subgenre is that it isn’t about the zombies. I mean, it’s a little about the zombies. But it’s more about how the living respond to this apocalypse. What do we do when there’s bad death threatening on all sides? When supplies are low. When we might be separated from people we love, unsure that they’re alright but with every reason to think they’re not. What do we do when the power goes out, the water goes out, the wifi goes out?

That’s the real terror of a zombie story. But it’s the real inspiration, too. Because the people who just look out for themselves, they’re the bad guys. They’re the ones who don’t make it. It’s the people who are looking out for their fellow man, who are risking their own lives to save others, that are the heroes. 

That’s one of the best things about horror in any genre. When faced with unimaginable odds, with the worst kinds of pain and horror, some heroes stand up and save others. Usually with nothing but the will to help and a double-barrel shotgun. Or a chainsaw arm. Whatever they have.

We’ve just got one more of these horror subgenre posts to go. Leave a like if you’ve enjoyed this, and I’ll see you next time. 

Quiet Apocalypse is available now for preorder! Check it out on Amazon or Smashwords. 

The end of the world began with a winter storm.
Sadie’s quiet life is interrupted when a tree crushes the roof of her attic apartment. She’s forced to move to a smaller apartment in the building. Then, her aunt guilts her into clearing an ouija board of a particularly irritating spirit.
But it wasn’t just the roof that was broken by the tree. There was something trapped within the building, waiting. Waiting to wake and bring about the end of the world.
Not with screams, but with silence.

Paper Beats World is a labor of love. If you found value in this post, please consider buying me a cup of coffee on Ko-fi. 

Horror Subgenres, Part Four

If you missed them, here are links to parts one, two, and three.

Welcome to part four of our series of horror subgenres. I’ve been loving the research I’m doing for these posts. My TBR pile keeps growing with every one. And, if you’re a writer like me, this can help a ton when marketing your horror stories. Knowing what you’re working with can certainly help you narrow down your markets.

So let’s get into the subgenres.

Monster literature

This is a pretty easy to define subgenre. A monster story is all about good against evil. Evil is usually in the form of a monster. Of course, it could just as easily be in the form of the absolute idiot who put together a human being out of spare parts and then took off and left it. Or the human who made a potion to turn himself into a different man so he could do all the dirty twisted shit he wanted to do and not get noticed. Or the human who thought all the creatures who couldn’t go out into the sun were going to kill him. 

What I’m saying is, even if this subgenre seems straightforward, it’s really not. These examples (Frankenstein, Jeckle and Hyde and I Am Legend) are much deeper than most people give them credit for. I’m not saying the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein wasn’t a delight. I’m just saying there’s more to the story than popular media would have us believe. 

Mumblegore

Most horror content is fake. We’re all fully aware of this. And if it’s not, it’s called a snuff film and that’s a sin against God and Man. 

The blood is fake, the lines are rehearsed. The acting is well paid. Even in my horror podcast, we use a ton of sound effects and other fakery.

Mumblegore focuses on a more natural approach. It focuses more on improv. The actors aren’t well known, the budget is a shoestring. It’s basically an amateur film, but on purpose. 

I haven’t had the chance to watch many of these films yet. But some examples from recent years are Save Yourself, Rent a Pal, and The Rental.

New Weird

This subgenre is an updated version of Weird Fiction. Starting in the ’90s and early 2000s, it’s a lot of pulp, lots of camp. There are always some sci-fi and speculative fiction elements, of course. And since this was the time I was starting to get into writing, and since I write speculative fiction, I’d say this is more my genre than any we’ve talked about so far.

Organ Transplant 

The first thing I thought about with this one is the old kidney heist urban legend. The one where a guy wakes up in a bathtub full of ice, about 160 grams lighter than when he passed out. 

And that’s the subgenre. We’re talking about people donating organs who didn’t plan to, or people getting extra bits grafted on that they didn’t need.

A classic example is the story Donovan’s Brain. But another good one is the storyline in the show Gotham. Fish Mooney is captured by a man who calls himself the Dollmaker. He’s taking bits off people to sell to others who need them. The rich eat the poor. Nothing new.

Penny Dreadful

Penny dreadfuls were the trashy entertainment of their day. That day being the 19th century in the UK. They were cheap paperback horrors full of gore and rather risque content. For the time, I mean. They sound like they were damn fun. 

Several were based on some true crime stories that were happening around that time. Most notably, the tales of Spring Heel Jack and Sweeney Todd. 

Psychological Horror

This is the stuff that gets to you. Most adults aren’t lying awake at night quaking because of a clown in the sewers. They’re thinking about whether they’re going to run out of food before payday. They’re thinking about what would happen if their kids didn’t come home after school. They’re thinking about that lump they felt, and whether they should make a doctor’s appointment.

The best horror makes us think of these sorts of things.

Psychological horror reminds us of our mortality and that of those we love. It makes us question the safety of our immortal souls. It relies not on monsters, but on the monstrosity, we all fear might lurk within us. There might very well be some supernatural elements. But that’s just a vessel to get us where we need to go. Smack in front of a mirror that shows us our darkest self, and the darkest corners of our world.

Some great examples of this are Saw, Butterfly Effect, and Split. The first two, I have no intention of ever watching again.

They scared me too much. 

That’s it for this time. I’ll be back soon with more horror subgenres.

Sleep tight.

Quiet Apocalypse is available for pre-order now! You can get it on Amazon or Smashwords

The end of the world began with a winter storm.

Sadie’s quiet life is interrupted when a tree crushes the roof of her attic apartment. She’s forced to move to a smaller apartment in the building. Then, her aunt guilts her into clearing an ouija board of a particularly irritating spirit. 

But it wasn’t just the roof that was broken by the tree. There was something trapped within the building, waiting. Waiting to wake and bring about the end of the world. 

Not with screams, but with silence. 

Paper Beats World is a labor of love. If you found something of value in this post, you can buy me a cup of coffee on Ko-fi. 

My Horror Heroes, Shirley Jackson

We’ve come to the last in my Horror Heroes series, but by far not the least. This author is a hero not only to me but to most of the other people on my hero list. 

Of course, we’re talking about the astounding Shirley Jackson. 

Shirley Jackson was an author when women weren’t supposed to be anything but homemakers. And she didn’t do this with anything that resembled support from her family. Her mother was a conservative woman who expected her daughter to be a conservative woman. As I’m sure you can imagine, there was some tension in her home growing up. As a woman raised in a backward, overly religious family, I can relate. 

Jackson’s married life wasn’t much better. Her husband was a professor, but she was soon making more money than him. Despite this, he controlled the finances in the house, dolling out only what he thought she should have of her own damned money. He also cheated on her all the time with his students. 

What’s worse is that he kept right on profiting from her long after she did. He sold a bunch of her writings after she passed, which seems like a huge betrayal. 

Really makes me appreciate my partner. 

But Jackson did what so many creatives do best. She took all the bad in her life and turned it into art. When some assholes in her backward town painted a swastika on her house, she was inspired to write The Lottery. 

Jackson wrote six novels, and over 200 short stories. Her children said she was always working. Either writing or thinking about writing. But she never once made them feel like anything less than the most important thing in her life. 

Jackson wrote some of the scariest novels of all time. The Haunting of Hill House is still considered one of the best ghost stories ever. And she might be the reason I love haunted house stories so much.

She was funny as hell, too. Here’s a great quote from her in regards to people’s response to The Lottery. 

“The number of people who expected Mrs. Hutchinson to win a Bendix washing machine at the end would amaze you.’ 

There’s no shrinking in this woman. There is no demure smile. She had no problem at all telling you exactly what she thought. 

Jackson also wrote extensively about her own life and raising her children. She wrote about her family with wit, sarcasm, and so much love. For her, there was no such thing as work-life balance. Her life was her work, her work was her life.

Jackson was an inspiration. I’ve been inspired by her my whole life. And I hope that you are too.

In short, here are the things I’ve learned from Shirley Jackson. And what you can learn from her too.

-Creating doesn’t have to take a back seat to caring for your family.

-Don’t take shit from anyone. 

-Don’t be afraid to succeed, beyond your spouse.

-Don’t let your mental illness hold you back from what you want to achieve. 

-Don’t let your gender define what you do.

-Most importantly, don’t be too worried about what other people think about your work. Not everyone is going to get it. 

In case you missed them, here are the other posts in the series. We talked about Stephen King, Wes Craven, George Romero, and R.L Stine.

Quiet Apocalypse is available now for preorder on Smashwords and Amazon.

The end of the world began with a winter storm.

Sadie’s quiet life is interrupted when a tree crushes the roof of her attic apartment. She’s forced to move to a smaller apartment in the building. Then, her aunt guilts her into clearing an ouija board of a particularly irritating spirit. 

But it wasn’t just the roof that was broken by the tree. There was something trapped within the building, waiting. Waiting to wake and bring about the end of the world. 

Not with screams, but with silence. 

Paper Beats World is a labor of love. If you found value in this post, you can buy me a cup of coffee on Ko-fi. 

Horror subgenres, Part Two

Welcome to our series of horror subgenres, part two. We’re taking a look at some of the many flavors that encompass our beloved genre of horror.

If you missed it, here’s part one

Ghost story

Ghost stories are my favorite. I mean, my absolute top-tier favorite. It’s not a hard subgenre to define. Any story that involves a ghost is, duh, a ghost story. 

These come in all sorts of varieties. Haunted house stories, haunted woods. Haunted highways, hospitals, insane asylums. Haunted objects like lockets and music boxes. Even haunted cars. Literally, anything can be haunted. 

Do I even need to give examples of this one? Well, there’s mine, of course, Quiet Apocalypse. House on Haunted Hill, American Horror Story Murder House. Some of the best are urban legends, like the vanishing hitchhiker. 

Then there are the real ghost stories that everyone seems to have. Most people haven’t seen a cryptid or run into a serial killer. But everyone’s got a ghost story.

Giallo

This is an Italian subgenre, named for the color that the covers generally came in. Which is, if you don’t speak Italian, yellow.

A lot of horror from America was translated and put on these yellow covers, including Agatha Christie novels.

These stories tended to be a blend of horror and thriller with a little bit of romance. The cornerstone of this subgenre is that the killer would never be revealed until the last act. 

Some examples of this subgenre are Eye in the Labyrinth and The Girl Who Knew Too Much.

Gothic bluebooks

Okay, this is a little funny and a little sad. And it’s got nothing to do with the comic ‘bluebooks’. Also called shilling shockers or sixpenny shockers, these were full-on plagiarized stories. A sleazy writer would condense a popular novel, telling the whole story in their own less talented words. Then they would sell the result for a fraction of the price. 

As much as I would love to say this is a product of a bygone time, we see the descendants of these works today. Go into any dollar store and you’ll find crates of DVDs that look similar to but aren’t popular films. We used to call them grandma bait because we figured the only people who bought them were grandmothers looking for gifts for their grandkids who didn’t get popular culture.

Grotesquerie 

I thought at first this subgenre was going to be about the goriest of the gory. But that’s not the case. 

This is a term used to describe a blend of sci-fi and horror. It’s dark stuff, that’s got one tentacle in the world of reality while the other seven are waving in the wild. 

Some authors who did well in this subgenre are Ambrose Bierce, Katherine Anne Porter, and H.P Lovecraft.

Dark Fantasy

This is a subgenre that I’ve gone over a lot, so I won’t spend a lot of time on it here. Dark fantasy is anything that takes the fantasy genre and the horror genre and blends them. As I discussed here, this is easily done. Because of course, if there are good and friendly fantasy creatures, then there are horrifying ones as well.

Honestly, how does anyone read old stories about the fai and think they’re our friends?

Witcher is a great example of a recent dark fantasy that was a lot of fun. 

Supernatural fiction

Finally, this is kind of a blanket subgenre that most of the others could easily fit into. It is any horror story that contains a supernatural element. Ghosts, vampires, demons, werewolves. Any cryptid you could imagine.

This subgenre is kind of silly when it can be broken down so much more. But next time we’re going to be digging into some much more complicated stuff. 

See you then.

My newest novel, Quiet Apocalypse, is available now for pre-order on Amazon and Smashwords! 

Paper Beats World is a labor of love. If you enjoyed this post, please consider buying me a cup of coffee on Ko-fi. 

Horror Subgenres, Part One

I once did a series about science fiction subgenres and it was pretty popular. So sometime later I decided to do a series about fantasy subgenres. It was also fun, and also still popular. 

Now that I’m getting ready to publish my first horror book, it seemed like a great time to dive into one more collection. So today we begin a six-part series about the many different subgenres that horror can fall into. Horror is as varied and complex as are those of us who love it. Sometimes it’s bright and shiny, blood and guts spilling out while a sexy blond lets out a braying, insane laugh. Sometimes it’s a man alone in a room with his memories. Sometimes it’s a whisper from under a bed, or in a closet. Sometimes it’s the sound of chewing, grinding teeth.

Sometimes, it’s a scream.

I love horror, in almost any form. So let’s talk about what different flavors we can experience when partaking in the horror genre.

(Note: much of my research was done on Wikipedia. If you like this, consider donating to them.)

Art house Horror

Sometimes called elevated horror, art-house horror is a more sophisticated example of the genre. At least, that’s what it would like to be. It’s not about jump scares or a room full of blood. It’s more about subtle, psychological chills. It’s a horror that might not gross you out but instead upset you on a more basic level.

I’m not a huge fan of this subgenre. I think horror suffers when the artists start crawling up their own asses. But when it’s done well, it’s exemplary. Some notable examples of art-house horror are Get Out, The Babadook, A Quiet Place, and The Shining. Art house horror seems to be having a moment. And while I’m thrilled to see more artists exploring the genre, I wouldn’t mind a few more slasher flicks.

Body Horror

Body horror explores body mutilation. It’s the rotting zombies, the bloated corpses. This subgenre relies on the gross-out factor, but it can go beyond that. The way this horror subgenre works best is when it preys upon our sympathies. When we see a mutilated body, it’s awful. When we start wondering what it would be like to live through that sort of mutilation, that’s where it starts getting really scary.

House of A Thousand Corpses is the first film that comes to mind with this subgenre. But really, almost any slasher flick is going to have components of this. Everything from the Scream Franchise to Hannibal. And the reason is simple. As Stephen King says, we’re afraid of the bad death. Body horror explores bad death to the extreme. 

Cthulhu mythos

I used to have a virtual pet Cthulhu on my tablet. It’s not super relevant to this. It’s just an example of a creature that was once feared being turned into a cuddly cartoon. 

As the name would apply, Cthulhu mythos is stories that contain Cthulhu as a character. He is the original creepypasta when you think about it. One great writer, HP Lovecraft, made him up. Now everyone writes about him.

The character first appeared in the holy Weird Tales in 1928. And Cthulhu has continued to capture hearts, and unwary sea goers, ever since. Some fun examples of this subgenre are The Color of Outer Space and the 2005 movie, The Call of Cthulhu. 

(Note, this subgenre differs from Lovecraftian, which we’ll be talking about later in this series.)

Eighteenth-Century Gothic

This is a subgenre we can’t reproduce, as it only describes stories written in a specific time frame. From 1760 to 1820 to be specific. But we can copy the style, and that’s something.

Eighteenth-century gothic was all about taking medieval stories and giving them a ‘modern’ feel. I mean, modern for the eighteenth century, of course.

There were a lot of supernatural elements to these stories. It’s described as supernatural plots with emotionally realistic characters. Ghosts haunting castles. Dead loved ones returning with cryptic messages. All things dark and eerie, but also uptight and proper. Some examples of this subgenre would be The Castle of Otranto and The Old English Baron.

Erotic horror

Porn. This is porn. It’s Dracula shirtless spilling blood over his chest, then going down on the three vampire seductresses. It’s a woman being undressed and screwed silly by a ghost. It’s a wet dream that gets you pregnant for real. 

There’s almost always an element of sex in horror. Sex is both the best and most terrifying thing most of us can think of. Think how many horror movies have a sexy time scene right before someone gets slashed to bits. It’s even one of the three rules for surviving a horror film. Don’t have sex. Don’t drink or do drugs. And don’t say I’ll be right back. But the first, and most important, is don’t have sex.

Often sex is the lure that ends someone’s life. A hot blond girl or dark mysterious man sweet talks you into going somewhere more private with you. Erotic horror just goes ahead and shows you all the good bits before the gory ones.

And I swear, it’s like half of American Horror Story Hotel. There is just a lot of sex in that season.

Fantastique

Fantastique is fantasy horror, which I’ve discussed at length. But apparently, it’s a big thing in France.

One distinction of Fantastique is that there is little to no explanation regarding the supernatural elements. Things just are what they are. There is magic. There are dragons. There is a thousand armed monster who lives under that house and will rip you apart if you go in there. No, we don’t need to know where it comes from. It’s just there. 

And I kind of love that. I love that there’s just no explanation. There’s no explanation why this horrifying thing is. It just is. 

That’s it for this time. But I’ll be back soon with more horror subgenres to explore. 

And don’t forget to pre-order Quiet Apocalypse now on Amazon or Smashwords.

Paper Beats World is a labor of love. If you enjoyed this post, please consider buying me a cup of coffee on Ko-fi. 

My horror heroes, Wes Craven

When I think of Wes Craven’s films, I’m struck with a flood of memories. Nightmare on Elm Street is the first horror movie I remember watching, with a babysitter who probably shouldn’t have let me watch it. I was little, curled up on our old couch in our trailer in the dark, eyes big as the moon and glued to the gore. 

Nightmare on Elm Street

I remember watching Scream at a sleepover, complete with pizza and sodas and a gaggle of girls. Everyone else was a little off the pizza after the first scene. 

I was not.

Wes Craven created some of my favorite slasher movies of all time. Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, The Last House on The Left. All of them leave people sick to their stomachs in the very best way possible. 

And can I also just mention that this guy won the name lottery? His actual birth name is Wesley Craven. I always thought that was a stage name. How lucky do you get?

Craven always allows the main characters to be the heroes. And his main characters are very often teenage girls. There’s no boyfriend, father, or parent jumping in to save them. It’s Nancy or Sydney saving everyone else’s ass, even after no one wanted to listen to them. They never once came across as scream queens. They also didn’t suffer from what I call the Alice Problem. By that, I mean Alice from Resident Evil. She had no personality, could have been anyone. I can’t think of a single thing about her that would distinguish her from Jill Valentine.

Scream poster

There’s none of that with Craven’s leading characters. They are their own people. 

I’ve never watched a Wes Craven film and not had a good time. In addition to being wonderfully bloody, they’re often funny. Especially the Scream movies. I love a good laugh to go along with the gore. I love that his movies aren’t afraid of being silly. They’re never taking themselves too seriously. 

I have no problem with fiction that has a message. Some of my favorite books and movies are all about that. Pleasantville, Dogma, Jacob the Liar. These are great films. But not everything has to have a message. Sometimes a piece of art can just be there to be enjoyed. And I love that Craven does that.

Finally, Craven figured out how to avoid one of the biggest issues with the horror genre. Almost everything has been done. Most viewers are genre-savvy. So, to surprise an audience, you’ve got to embrace the meta.

And Craven has made a habit of doing just that. The Scream series is a great example, giving us film after film full of in-jokes designed for horror fans. Even better is my favorite horror film, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.

In this film, the actors from Nightmare on Elm Street are attacked by Freddy. Even Robert Englund, the actor who played Freddy himself. This was a ton of fun for a super fan like me. 

So, what have I learned from Wes Craven? And what can you, as a writer learn from him?

-Understand that your fans are probably genre-savvy, and have fun with that

-Have fun with your art in general. Don’t be afraid to go big.

-Give your main character a real personality. 

Don’t miss the other posts in this series, where we talked about Stephen King, George Romero, and R. L. Stine

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